Why Did World War II Start?

World War II

A number of historical factors led to World War II. Germany’s defeat in World War I and the punishing Treaty of Versailles sowed resentment among many Germans. This, and the economic downturn of the 1930s, paved the way for the rise of Adolf Hitler — who often blamed Jews for Germany’s problems.

World War II

At the same time, Japan had begun to build its large empire in the Pacific. Throughout the 1930s, Japanese forces were increasingly aggressive toward China, culminating with the Japanese invasion of the country in 1937.

World War II

(As the conflict dragged on, Japan would go on to commit numerous war crimes, including forcing over 200,000 girls and women into sexual slavery, conducting experiments on kidnapped Chinese civilians, and regularly executing — and sometimes even cannibalizing — their prisoners of war.)

World War II

And, just as in World War I, varying alliances bound many countries together. Germany and Japan had signed an Anti-Comintern Pact in 1936, which Italy joined in 1937, laying the foundation for the Axis powers. Likewise, France and Britain promised to protect Poland shortly before Germany invaded in 1939.

World War II
A young child cries amidst the rubble of a destroyed train station in Shanghai, China, in 1937.


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Written by Andrhea Soriano

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